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EP elections: the home stretch

May 19th, 2014

A left-wing columnist thinks the EP election turnout next weekend will be low, as the stakes are less than clear for most Hungarians. A liberal commentator agrees, adding that the only question is whether small left-wing forces can overcome the 5 per cent hurdle. An independent analyst thinks the Hungarian campaign has little to say about Europe, but if Eurosceptic parties pick up too many votes, the two largest European parliamentary groups will have to stick together.

In Népszabadság László Szőcs says an EP election billboard featuring Ildikó Pelcz (who leads the Fidesz ballot) and Jean-Claude Juncker (who is the People’s Party candidate for Commission Chairman) would mean nothing to Hungarians. Fidesz campaigns with a picture of Viktor Orbán and DK with that of Ferenc Gyurcsány because they are at least household faces. The author expects a low turnout as the election is somewhat less than real. Voters at present cannot even know where their vote will end up in the EP. Nobody knows which group the MEPs representing the DK and Gordon Bajnai’s Together-PM would join, if elected at all. (They are expected to get 5 per cent or just a little more at best, which would yield them a single mandate each). In addition, not all EP groups have representatives in Hungary. Szűcs does not find the election of the new President of the Commission by EP members convincing either. A summit of the member states will pick someone who may or may not be the candidate of the strongest EP faction. EP members can then vote him in, he says, in what “looks like an election but is not quite one”.

HVG (print edition) calls the election “a meaningless second round” to the April parliamentary elections, implying that the victory of Fidesz is beyond doubt. The right is more disciplined, author Gábor Juhász speculates, but the left has more to win or lose as it is still not clear if the smaller center-left parties of the former opposition alliance who now stand on separate ballots or LMP can pass the per cent threshold.

Index carries a commentary by András G. Inotai, an independent expert working for the Greek EU commissioner, who explains the EU-wide significance of the Hungarian vote. Hungary’s 21 mandates offer her 40 per cent more weight than a strictly population-based system would. In the present EP, he says, even one vote can be important as the European People’s Party and the Socialists are expected to get 28 per cent while the Euro-skeptic vote is estimated at 15 to 25 per cent. He argues that even if Euro-skeptics pick up more votes, it is highly unlikely that they can find a common ground on most questions and in any case, “a single yes vote would mean they accept the legitimacy of the EP”. Inotai says it is important which faction smaller party’s candidates will join (Together-PM and DK have not yet declared their allegiance) but in general the two large factions will have a majority and will stick together in the face of Eurosceptic threats.



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